A Favour For The King – Chapter Eight

A Favour For The King – Chapter Eight

Cagle Mansion Ruin South of Mount Katahdin:

McGee was uneasy. We were still being watched. We all shared that eerie feeling. Though it was unspoken we also knew that could mean strange creatures could be drawn to us. We had hoped that being with the barrier created by the newly restored compass point stones might give us some respite but the feeling just wouldn’t go away.

In the city we could look for a car engine purring whilst stationary or a muscled help with a bulging inside pocket. Here it was harder to know what to look for.  In the woods the Germans had used mantraps similar to those used by Cagle but this was different. There every rise in elevation or thickening of the trees meant a possible redoubt, here there was no tell. No warning where the next hazard might be.

Few of us got much sleep. The copper knife we had discovered in the Cagle ruins had recent blood stains on it. Maybe this was the “bad medicine” that had caused Horace to make his tribe shun Riverman. There had been cut marks on his arms too. Given his proclivity to dark magics and his recent resurrection of a long dead medicine man it wasn’t a huge leap to imagine that it could be some way to imbue power from the object.

We waited out the night within the confines of the Cagle ruin. Not that we’d get any sleep but the strange compass point stones certainly worked on the local wildlife which kept well clear of the area. Or maybe they were afraid of us, or our curse; best not to think on it too much.

It would be best to head to Mount Katahdin at dawn when we had the whole day before us to get to the top of the ridge. So we had the night to rest up or prepare.

Ed could quiz our new guide, the mysterious Native American named Black Squirrel. Surely his name was no coincidence. That was the same name as the Gahn or spirit guide in his vision quest. McGee hadn’t taken him to be a spiritualist yet Ed seemed to have bought completely into the whole toxic fungi induced dream he had experienced on Indian Island. But who was his new friend? Whilst he had previously shown his prowess with his spear we knew nothing about him. Horace had said we would not encounter any of his Panawahpskek people in this area yet here he was just when we needed a new guide after the shooting of Great Bear. I both hated and distrusted coincidences.

It seemed like Ed did too. He spoke to Black Squirrel throughout his watch. Ed remained on edge. He felt as if he was being watched the whole time. Maybe to pass the time or maybe to glean more information from his newfound companion, Ed cross examined Black Squirrel constantly making contemporary references to events. Then I got it, a resurrected ancient Medicine man would have no point of reference to these questions. Quite smart, it showed Ed was thinking which was good. Not blindly trusting or believing in someone we’d met for five minutes. I liked that: Ed was trying to determine whether this Black Squirrel was actually Assaminasqua, long dead creator of Razorshins.

Black Squirrel did not know of goings on in the wider world. He didn’t know Coolidge was President or that The Washington Senators had beaten the New York Giants in last October’s World Series but he did know of current events surrounding Horace.

Black Squirrel also explained that he had been advised to come here by a spirit voice in a dream which had further pointed out that “Some of the stars in the sky should not be there at this time of year”. Was he referring to the mysterious star Aldebaran which MacNifey inexplicably knew was interconnected with the foul Byakhee creatures which had so recently assailed us? Ed would later find out that it’s visibility in the night sky in May 1925 was only due to rare set of astronomical phenomena that would not recur for 100s of years.

Ed was so engrossed in his conversation with Black squirrel that he missed his cue for the end of his watch. Luckily McGee and MacNifey were unable to sleep so they took over at the correct time. Both kept looking over their shoulders. Their hackles had risen. They were convinced that they were being watched just as Ed had been. They eyed Black Squirrel cautiously then just went about their watches, checking on distant Mount Katahdin through their field glasses or tending to Cherry whose wound rendered him barely mobile despite the careful ministrations of Rose. She too regarded Black Squirrel with suspicion but made no attempt to converse with him again in his native tongue. Perhaps wishing not to reveal the extent of her linguistic knowledge just yet. Yes she had said a few words in Eastern Abenaki to him as he had first approached but hopefully he would not reason how fluent she actually was.

At the end of their watch they handed over to Rose and Cherry.  I don’t think anyone got much sleep at all that night.

Rose flinched, reflecting everyone else’s suspicion of being watched as did Cherry. He requested the others help him to the roof where he was laid on a camp bed with Very pistol, .45 and rifle all at hand. He may not have been able to move but he wouldn’t make it easy for any potential attackers. With his telescope he could also see a good deal of Mount Katahdin from his elevated vantage point. He couldn’t go with us but he could observe our progress as far as possible.

As he watched the Mountain in the hour just before dawn a shiver went down his spine as he saw an accursed Byakhee fly across the moon. It was far away and lost in an instant but he knew it for what it was. He remained in a cold sweat until dawn but it never returned.

We had noticed no chanting from Black squirrel so surmised that someone or something else had drawn the foul things earthward.

As a weak sun rose we prepared a quick breakfast or made a final check of our weapons. It was time to head to Mount Katahdin. It was time to find Assaminasqua and deal with him.

We all felt a little relieved in the pale light of dawn but couldn’t at first figure it out. Then we got it. The feeling of being watched had gone. But why? There seemed no rhyme or reason to it. We had sensed the horrible feeling many times in the day while on board our boat so why had it disappeared now? We had no answer, but we’d take it. McGee took it as a good sign.

Rose made sure Cherry had everything he needed to hand in the upper level. We then pulled up the ladder next to him so he wasn’t easily accessible from the ground. We also set up a second camp bed with a false body shape in the tent at ground level as a diversion.

Then it was time to leave. Ed went up front walking side by side with Black Squirrel with McGee just behind. Rose with Trench gun in hand went last with MacNifey at her side sporting his Tommy gun. We were not taking any chances.

We walked through the morning mist wondering at the uncharacteristic chill in the air. We progressed towards Mount Katahdin without incident until when we were around a mile from the mountain Black Squirrel pointed out a Spirit Tree amongst the scrub.

We scanned it through a variety of rifle scopes or binoculars but discerned nothing. However Rose, standing by MacNifey as he studied it, noticed a strange look in Black Squirrel’s eye as MacNifey did so.  Was it a look of expectancy? Certainly Rose felt sure she detected a degree of anticipation in our new found companion. MacNifey frowned at the onset of a sudden headache but put it down to excess concentration as the feeling passed. He trudged on, shaking off the unpleasant feeling then barking at the others to hurry along to hide his discomfort. Rose continued to scrutinise black Squirrel. His impassivity seemed a little forced.

MacNifey was on edge. He had remembered when he had felt this before. He had felt it when a certain beautiful lady entertainer had been singing a siren song of beguiling melody to a bar full of spellbound clientele. Quite literally spellbound as it had turned out! He had been attacked somehow.  He shouted out a warning to the others.

Just then they all felt the same static crackle coupled with the sulphurous stench that they had so recently sensed at the Cagle ruin. Another foul faceless beast was materialising from the aether.

Berkeley had already aimed in the direction of the disturbance. The second the hideous faceless thing fully appeared he fired. It was hit in the head but as the creature was moving so it only grazed the top of its skull without being a kill shot.

McGee, MacNifey and Rose all shot at the creature too. However the thing was not of this world and though such a barrage would have stopped a charging Grizzly this thing, though wounded, raised its hideous clawed arms then promptly buried its foot long talons in the heart of the hapless Black Squirrel.

He was killed instantly falling down dead at the creature’s feet.  The poor guy hadn’t even had time to hurl his spear. Using the smooth fast action of her Trenchgun Rose fired again this time felling the beast as it crumpled up from a hideous wound in its midriff.

Had we been wrong about our enigmatic companion? Was his serendipitous appearance just happenstance after all. Maybe we would never know.

Staying alert Rose scrutinised the surrounding area. She spotted a pale, leering, malevolent Native American visage in a nearby tree.  Without hesitation she fired from the hip, shouting a warning as she did so, though the shot was surely warning enough. McGee and MacNifey had already spied him too. Both of them shot wounding the Native American.

He was staggered, bleeding from the shoulder but still on his feet up the tree.  He gestured at McGee who was immediately struck with complete terror, unable to move. His mind contorted with unearthly power, he remained rooted to the spot. The tree offered some cover obscuring Ed’s shot but he took a braced position as he waited for his opening.

MacNifey edged to his right; a few seconds later as McGee recovered he pulled to his left in a flanking manoeuvre.  Their quarry had begun rhythmically chanting. What accursed magics would assail us next?

He finished chanting, then spoke: “Outlanders! I have called him. Your doom is coming! You are all already dead. You are not human beings, he will kill you all.”

MacNifey didn’t wait to hear any more insane ramblings. He picked up Black Squirrel’s spear and hurled it treewards. It was a perfect throw. It thumped square into the chest of Assaminasqua, for it was he. He yelled out, “You have hit me! Yet I cannot be harmed. “This last comment made no sense, as he had already been shot in the shoulder. Clearly Assaminasqua’s mind was broken. Ed elected to wait no longer, despite having no clear shot from his vantage point he aimed through the leaves where he believed Assaminasqua’s head to be. A perfect shot.  Assaminasqua reeled but his unnatural vitality kept alive when any normal man would surely already have fallen.

McGee shot too. Assaminasqua started cursing, we thought in Quebecois or old fashioned French, but we were all distracted and couldn’t be sure. Trees were crashing in the distance. It seemed as if Razorshins must have been approaching, for what else would make such an approach?

McGee thought for a moment. He knew we couldn’t defeat or hope to harm Razorshins even with the two knives. So he came upon a plan to offer Assaminasqua his greatest desire: the Sea Knife. “Send him away and you can have this!” He held up the knife as he spoke.

Assaminasqa paused in his febrile rantings; McGee had indeed read him correctly. He nodded briefly as if agreeing; then commenced to chant in Eastern Abenaki. But it sounded wrong. The chant was backwards. Turning to Rose, McGee hissed: “Learn this, remember this!”

Maybe this invocation, sung in reverse would cause Razorshins to depart.

Rose scrutinised Assaminasqua even as she concentrated on his words. He was wounded badly in several places. He should have bled out already but certainly couldn’t last much longer.

The invocation did indeed work. The sound of trees crashing receded.

McGee moved to hand the Sea Knife to the still chanting Assaminasqua. Holding it out in his left hand he approached the tree in which the ancient medicine man was ensconced. Then at the last moment, he drew his pistol in his right hand and fired a silver bullet into the heart of Assaminasqua. He had retained them from Riverman’s camp earlier as he had presumed that was why Riverman had kept them, useless as they were against Razorshins.

Just as McGee shot, MacNifey retrieved the spear which he then hurled upwards. The bullet struck Assaminasqua while the spear hit him in the head. Assaminsqua fell to the ground stone dead. In historic fashion the white man had once again lied to the Native American, reneging on a deal. Though perhaps never before so soon after having made it. Custer would have been proud.

Checking his body Berkeley found a small leather pouch containing a metal whistle and a small wooden pipe similar to a piccolo. Perhaps this pipe was the one we had heard on previous occasions in the forest or on the river. They had preceded the arrival of foul unnatural creatures.

Searching the body further, Ed also found a small wooden Totem Stick. Rose seemed quite fascinated by its intricate carvings.

Having searched the body thoroughly, we then doused it in hooch before setting it aflame. Even though Razorshins had left, the quart jugs had proved very useful after all. The body burned well in a moonshine flambé. This was great as we didn’t want him returning again or having his grave turn into some kind of unholy shrine.

It was as if we had all been relieved of some unwanted burden. Our sense of doom or foreboding lessened. Before long the mist had completely dissipated too. The temperature rose and, while it could have been our imagination, the sun seemed to shine more brightly also.

After resting we checked the area again but found it devoid of hostiles. Rose suggested tracking Assaminasqua back to his camp. Ed surprised us all by quickly finding it, even though it was a faint trail that been slightly disguised. He led the way through the undergrowth towards Mount Katahdin. We soon became aware of more animal sounds around us.

We moved on quickly, anxious to be away before nightfall. All the while we wondered what Black Squirrel’s role in all of this had been. Some of his actions indicated that he had been a confederate of Assaminasqua yet he had helped kill Riverman. We double-timed for several hours before we came upon a lone tepee next to a tree at the base of Mount Katahdin.

McGee ordered that we all exercise caution as we approached it. Who knew what foul traps or snares his damaged mind may have concocted. Berkeley, having a very good day, saw a prominent block of stone. Smaller than the one at the ruined Cagle Manor but with very similar inscriptions. It was also at a compass almost exactly due north.

He swiftly but carefully pulled it out of place before we all approached the tepee. Rose led the way, most eager to discover more anthropological or archaeological treasures. Within the small tepee she found a set of pan pipes, not Panawahpskek in origin. She also found another crudely made copper knife which also had recent bloodstains upon it. Several pots of foul smelling herbs or other organic ingredients were next to the pipes. These too were not part of Panawahpskek culture.

We took the items with us then headed back along the trail to the Cagle ruin.

As we passed by the site of the attack upon Assaminasqua, Rose suggested that we took back the body of Black Squirrel with us with a view to giving him a medicine mans burial in the burial ground of his people. After some discussion we elected to make crude wooden fame upon which his body could be dragged back to the Cagle ruin. It might leave a trail but hopefully we had eliminated any hostiles in the area. Had Assaminasqua had any group of followers they surely would have been with him at the tree or would have attacked us already.

We progressed back to the ruin where we were reunited with Vincenzo. He was recovering well, helped by both the warming up of the atmosphere and the removal of that all pervading feeling of dread which had hung over us since we had first sailed up the Penobscot River from Bangor.

While still unable to move quickly, he could walk slowly without help. We elected to split our group with two of us spending the night with Vincenzo while Rose and Ed would continue back to Cagle’s hide to check on our original guide, Great Bear, to see how he was. If possible they would transport him back to the boat via stretcher.

As it turned out Rose surmised that Great Bears wounds required another days healing. Rose tended to him that night and the following day while Ed first sent word back to the trio at the ruin before heading to the boat to check on it.

It was where we had moored it. It was completely untouched. By the morning of Wednesday May 20th everyone had sufficiently rested to make the return journey to the boat. We enjoyed the glorious sunshine of a golden morning as we sailed back across the picturesque Lake Millinocket before rejoining the Penobscot River for our return journey to Bangor via Indian Island. We were now travelling downstream with the current in our favour so we made good time.

We arrived at Indian Island in the late afternoon of Wednesday 20th May 1925.

We were greeted by a grateful Horace and Philomene who arranged for warriors to help us with our wounded. They were carried to the chief’s house on Indian Island where Great bear and Vincenzo  were further tended by Philomene and some tribal elders.

MacNifey had taken a liking to the spear of Black Squirrel with its unerring accuracy. Likewise Ed and McGee took a liking to the copper knives retrieved from the tepee and ruin respectively so all these items were kept in their possession. McGee also kept the Sea Knife. Rose was very keen to study it but acquiesced when McGee laid down the law explaining that it was an insurance against Razorshins until they were all safely out of Maine.

While on Indian Island Horace explained that Black Squirrel had also explored bad medicine. This had resulted in him too being shunned by the Panawahpskek people. As such, he could not explain Black Squirrel’s motives but thought that he may have been partially sympathetic to Riverman. Maybe he had led us to the trap after all. Horace was sorry to hear that Black Squirrel had perished but realised it was due to circumstances out of our control.

On the boat Ed pickled Cagle’s head for presentation to The King.

Meanwhile Vincenzo and Great bear were transferred to Bangor hospital where they continued to receive daily visits from Rose, Philomene and the elders for the whole of the following week.

While waiting on Vincenzo’s recovery; Ed, McGee and MacNifey enjoyed a good period of R&R in the company of Rose, Helen, Joan and Molly. Everyone in Bangor ensured they were always well looked after. The sheriff thanked them for their help.

David Solomon came to town and took the trio and the four ladies to a civic dinner in their honour. He also sent a message of thanks to his distant cousin Charles Solomon in Boston expressing his gratitude for all the good work done by his associates.

On Wednesday 27th May 1925 Vincenzo was almost fully recovered, thanks to Philomene’s ministrations and the Fixers reluctantly boarded the boat for their return trip to Boston.

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